» Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus Lesbians

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

In general, I think it’s dangerous to generalize and foolish to put people in boxes. That said, there are some striking differences in the wedding planning activities of gay men versus lesbians. I’ve seen this over time in my wedding planning career, and in your role as a wedding professional I think it’s important to be aware of some of these differences/trends in order to best serve your clients.

Lesbians are female, and most of them identify as brides, are therefore much more “bridal” – and they are also more traditional as a result. If you think about it, since a very young age, many girls have been indoctrinated into the idea of having a wedding; their fairytale princess fantasy. It’s just been something that’s been expected of young girls for decades – lesbian girls included!

Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus LesbiansGay men, on the other hand, were unlikely to have been raised dreaming about their wedding. It’s just not something that parents talk to sons much about during their childhood, the way those same parents might talk to their daughters about it. As a result of this, plus the wedding industry’s focus on “the bride”, and the gender roles that play a part in most wedding traditions, gay men are far less traditional on their wedding days.

The survey of contemporary couples that my company conducted with WeddingWire, GayWeddings.com and Community Marketing validates my experiences as a wedding planner. For example, we found that gay men are far less likely to want to follow wedding traditions such as something borrowed, something blue (35% of lesbians adhere to this tradition vs. 7% of gay men), doing a first dance (43% of lesbians vs. 18% of gay men), changing their name (42% vs. 7%), having a wedding shower (23% vs. 4%), and many other traditions. You can take a look at the full report here.

You may also find that gay men are less likely to even have a sit down dinner and instead choose a cocktail reception. You may find that gay men are interested in hiring a DJ with experience in clubs as opposed to a DJ whose experience is primarily limited to weddings. You may find that gay men are interested in a fashion photographer rather than a traditional wedding photographer. Gay men may even be interested in picking out the attire of their waitstaff, and may ask for model bartenders/servers! I once had a gay client ask for a cute young male wedding officiant! Is that discriminatory? No, because someone’s appearance is not a protected class… but there’s no doubt that it’s shallow.

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» Infographic: What’s the Q? Best Practices for LGBTQ Wedding Language

We’re excited to share our latest infographic, which shares highlights from our recent webinar about the best practices for wedding language when working with LGBTQ couples!

It’s very important to understand modern LGBTQ terms and how they differ in definition, such as sexual orientation, sexual identity, and gender. By taking the time to understand the history of these terms and the best practices for LGBTQ wedding language, you will make your clients feel much more comfortable when working with your business. You’ll also be more likely to get more leads using inclusive language that welcomes all types of couples to your website.

Learn more by reviewing the infographic’s tips, provided by WeddingWire Education Contributor Bernadette Smith, President of the Gay Wedding Institute

What's the Q? Best Practices for Wedding Language

» Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

Now that there is marriage equality across all 50 states, one of the questions I’ve been getting is: Should I open a business specializing in LGBTQ weddings?

Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?12 years ago, when marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the first state in the country, I opened a wedding planning business (14 Stories) doing just that, with an LGBTQ specialty. I opened the business to be an advocate for my clients and help them navigate a very traditional wedding industry where they might feel trapped in traditional roles, or worse – mistreated or rejected.

At that time, there were no other businesses in my market in Massachusetts with that specialty, so it was very easy for me to build a client base. Additionally, Massachusetts quickly became a destination for couples from other states and countries who could not legally marry in their home state. My wedding planning clientele was not just local couples, but also couples who sought Massachusetts (and later the rest of New England and New York) as their wedding destination. In that sense, it was almost easy money. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with couples from almost every state and around the world.

Now that every state has marriage equality, specializing in same-sex weddings would be a risk for any business. Think about it: same-sex couples have a wide variety of purchasing criteria just like everybody else. They make their purchasing decisions based on creativity, personality fit, budget, style and a whole number of other factors that have nothing to do with whether or not you specialize in same-sex weddings.

Data tells us that the LGBTQ community is 5-7% of society. In order to make a successful living with an LGBTQ specialty, you have to attract the community, find ones who are engaged, have a wedding date which you have open, have the budget for your services, love your personality, respect your talent and a whole lot more. Having a niche is great, but with this specialty, you would be extremely niche-driven to the point where there just will not be enough demand to create a sustainable business. And at the end of the day, we have to make money. Continue reading

» What’s the Q? Best Practices for LGBTQ Wedding Language

LGBTQ Wedding Language WebinarWebinar recap!

Language is an important thing to remember when marketing to the LGBTQ community. You do not want to isolate any couples by using offensive wording, or failing to account for specific terms that welcome LBGTQ couples and make them feel comfortable to use your business.

One year ago this June the Supreme Court passed their decision on full marriage equality! To help celebrate, WeddingWire Education Contributor Bernadette Smith hosted an educational webinar this week to discuss the best practices for LGBTQ wedding language, so you can continue to effectively reach and serve all couples.

Here are some of the great tips for using inclusive language that were shared during the webinar:

  • Not all people identify as a single gender, or have a single gender expression or sexual orientation. It is important to recognize that there can be fluidity between each of these categories. Since there are various ways that individuals can express themselves, aim to use inclusive language for all.
  • It is okay to ask a client what pronoun they prefer, or by what title they would like to be called (“bride,” “groom,” etc.). It is better to ask your clients for their preferences so you can address them in a way that is respectful, rather than to make assumptions. And, be sure to honor their response!
  • There are several offensive terms that are outdated or too risky to use when marketing, especially if you are not apart of the LGBTQ community. For instance, Bernadette recommends avoiding terms like “gay agenda,” “that market,” and “sexual preference,” among various others.  
  • Millennials often have a different take on the proper language that should be used to refer to LGBTQ individuals. They frequently follow their own trends, and are more likely to have more traditional wedding experiences. Learn more about these trends and the latest statistics by reading the 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples Report.  
  • The best way you can show your support of LGBTQ couples is to be inclusive in your marketing, website and language. Show photos of all types of couples, express that you are excited to serve all types of loving couples explicitly, and update your contracts to use inclusive language not just “bride” and “groom.”

Interested in learning more? Watch the full webinar, or check out past blog posts on serving same-sex couples.

For more great education and resources from Bernadette, be sure to visit Gay Wedding Institute, and grab your free download 5 Social Media Tips to Increase Your LGBT Wedding Bookings.

Plus, don’t forget to opt-in to the GayWeddings vendor directory and update your main image to attract more engaged same-sex couples – learn how with our step by step guide. Once you are listed, add your GayWeddings badge to add to your website or blog and get added traffic to your listing!

» What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

When I’m working with teams training them on attracting LGBTQ customers and growing their client base, my first focus is always language and terminology. I believe that language is the foundation of our society and to effectively serve the LGBT wedding market, we must first truly understand the language of our community.

What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?Let’s start with the easy part: LGBT or sometimes seen as LGBTQ. L stands for lesbian, G for gay, and B for bisexual. All of those are examples of sexual orientation – who we fall in love with, who we are attracted to, and who we want to go to bed with.

The T in LGBT stands for transgender, or someone whose physical body doesn’t match the gender identity in their brain. Those folks are likely to change their bodies to match their minds. The most visible transgender person in the world is probably Caitlyn Jenner, a transwoman, or more accurately, a woman.

And Q stands for queer. Queer is a pretty controversial term, one that has historically been a derogatory term for members of our community. For example the older generation of LGBT folks are often still offended by that term “queer.” They may have been referred to as queer by bullies in high school, college, or even by members of their own family. For them queer is a really controversial and actually offensive term. That’s why I never recommend the use of queer (as a standalone term) in your marketing materials.

However, using LGBTQ as opposed to LGBT is actually a broader term and may be a successful way to market your wedding business. Simply put, queer has actually been reclaimed particularly by Millennials and used as an umbrella term that seeks an understanding of gender and sexual identity as complex and fluid. See, gender is a spectrum. There are lots of people who don’t identify with either male or female boxes, but rather fall somewhere in between. Simply put, they are gender fluid. Another word for gender fluid is genderqueer, commonly shortened as queer.

Similarly there are lots of people who don’t identify as straight, gay or even bisexual. Sexual identity is also a spectrum. If someone has a broad range of attraction to all different kinds of people there’s a very good chance they’re going to self-identify as pansexual or queer. Sometimes I referred to queer as “the anti-label label”: for people who are more fluid and don’t like labels or boxes, it’s the perfect label.

So, why does this matter in the wedding industry? First off, it’s a marketing consideration. Should you use the term LGBT or LGBTQ? If you live in a very liberal place, your client base is currently very progressive liberal couples, and if you often hear from the couple themselves first instead of having parents involved in the planning, then you may consider using LGBTQ instead of LGBT in your marketing materials. LGBTQ is also the perfect term if your target audience is millennial LGBTQ folks. However, if your target audience is older same-sex couples, then I would advise not using LGBTQ and instead just using LGBT. Remember, that older LGBT folks have some baggage around the term queer, particularly if it was used as a slur against them.

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